Institute 193, the innovative gallery and publisher, has announced the publication of Eric Rhein: Lifelines
This is the first book from artist Eric Rhein: a unique monograph-memoir spanning three decades of his life and artwork. It features intimate photographs taken between 1989 and 2012—including self-portraits and images of friends and lovers from the period between Rhein’s HIV diagnosis, his near death, and the returning vitality that new medications would afford him. As a personal response to the AIDS crisis, these compelling portraits highlight tenderness and care as life-saving forces.
The book also includes watercolors, delicate assemblages, and wire drawings—notably his ongoing project Leaves, an AIDS memorial honoring over 300 individuals whom Rhein knew.
Eric’s work embodies love, touch, connection to nature, and to familial and regional history. The artist draws from his Kentucky roots and his family relationship with his uncle Lige Clarke—a gay rights pioneer of the 1960s and 70s. They are inspirations for his art and activism. Rhein mines collective and personal narratives, formulating pieces that are both poetic and documentary.
“. . . .Eric Rhein’s most recent book, is an emotional journey through intimate scenes where Eric, his friends, and his lovers share time and space during the AIDS crisis of the 90’s—a time of extreme duress and pain. “Feelings” is a word I often associate with Eric’s gentle artworks: longing, love, lust, life—and this page-turner of a book is ripe with outbursts of intimate emotions. In his photographs and sculptures, Eric memorializes lives lost to AIDS, but he also rightfully celebrates his own survival. I am happy Eric is still here with us and able to communicate what it feels like to have survived a past that informs the experience of living in the present.”
— Carlos Motta, artist, activist, and documentarian
The book includes essays by National Book Award-winning poet Mark Doty; former Institute 193 Director Paul Michael Brown; and Rhein. Of Eric’s work, Doty writes, “These images affirm the desiring self at a moment when desire had become dangerous…”
About Eric Rhein: Eric has exhibited widely in the United States and abroad, and his work has been reviewed in the New York Times, Huffington Post, ARTnews, Vanity Fair, and Art in America. New York Times critic Holland Cotter wrote of Rhein’s work: “…the combination of art and craft, delicacy and resiliency, feminine and masculine, is exquisitely wrought and is, as it should be, seductive but disturbing.” Eric Rhein is included in the Smithsonian Archives of American Art’s Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic: An Oral History Project.
About the publisher: Institute 193 collaborates with artists, musicians, and writers to produce exhibitions, publications, and projects that document the cultural landscape of the modern South.
Release date: November 10th, 2020
Distributed by: ARTBOOK | Distributed Art Publishers
[*In the process of making Luv ’til it Hurts (starting with a two-year staged impersonation by its alter-ego, Luv Hurts), I began working with fellow artists, Paula Nishijima and Brad Walrond. Paula reviewed my organization of ideas & content from its 2018-20 archive (a.k.a. the red site) using her ‘swarm’ methodology to understand patterns, and ultimately to propose the project’s next online iteration.]
[*The working group that comprises Luv ’til it Hurts–Brad Walrond, Paula Nishijima & Todd Lanier Lester–asked designer / installation author, Jakub Szczęsny to tailor Exquisite Corpse expography to the first 15 artists featuring in a traveling show on HIV and related stigmas. We envision that Exquisite Corpse will change from location to location. Szczęsny’s exhibition spaces (shown below) can be combined to fit the needs of new artists joining the show as well as a range of different host venues.]
When I first put out tent pegs for Luv ’til it Hurts (LUV), I framed it as a two-year period of R&D. The duration of the R&D is the (art) work. This is because I could guarantee to perform ‘research and development’ for a period that I determine duration. I aimed the process at a concept loosely termed ‘philanthropic device’, and then somewhere on this axis where process (asking questions / meeting people while focused on a theme) ‘meets’ identifiable / achievable structure or agglomeration of activities (culmination), I’ve been watching and nudging, teasing out and archiving the ensuing form. And, of course the ending can be the beginning of something else. If something substantive and/or timely comes out of this two-year marathon, I’ll see it. The period is up at end of June, and I’m on a keen outlook for what emerges. It might need new words to describe it, as it shouldn’t be run-of-the-mill. It will be clear soon. Of that, I’m sure.
In the mean time, I offer some ‘tenets of transition’ … here goes:
* This red site (www.luvhurts.co) will serve as archive of the two-year process; * A new site (www.luvtilithurts.co) will be erected sometime in July, and will explain itself (in terms of form); * Notes on organization, like these ‘rules’ (or suggestions) will ‘live’ in the archive and cede space to new works and the discussions they bring up on the new site; * The project’s brand identity will be tweaked during the transition, and some bits will be woven into /foregrounded in its new look
+ The LUV logo was designed by Adham Bakry, as was the project’s signature geometric heart and our letterhead. + Thiago Correia Gonçalves pulled another logo from these spare parts with geometric ‘heart-LUV-heart’ + Over the course of the project-to-date, the LUV logo has been used to show partnership with an artist’s independent film in closing credits and on the placard for a Bogotá public performance, and our letterhead used for artist reference letters on conference scholarships and residency opportunities
Check out the two different letterheads below. If any of these visual tools are needed by LUV peeps (people who are in LUV) then, just ask us. And, we’ll send the version you need.
Luv ‘til it Hurts began as a two-year, uncharted project about HIV and Stigma. An odyssey, of sorts. Yet, a limited set of questions. A discussion that grew into a team. Its next-life is aligned with our urgency to keep talking…talking in different directions and including others. The experience of many, once a minefield of individual fears, instigates the rumbling of collective production power. We’re gathering our ideas on a common table, and planning for a future whose hope is in the disruption of our present. We are convinced that to strategize our next steps we need more than single linear energies, but a group, a multitude of voices prepared to sing (and shout), to harmonize and also disarrange. Luv ‘til it Hurts is a platform for real bodies to come onboard and co-pilot its playful unfolding, one set of interaction generating the next. Brad Walrond, Eric Rhein, Jakub Szczęsny, Paula Nishijima, Todd Lanier Lester, Alberto Pereira Jr., Adham Bakry, Juan de la Mar/”De Gris a PositHIVo” (Colombia), HIV2020, Every Where Alien (US), ANKH Association (Egypt), Humans as Hosts (Taiwan), Love Positive Women, Nhimbe Trust (Zimbabwe), Luciérnagas (Colombia), House of Zion, El Santo Taller de Cerámica (Colombia), Think Twice Collective (Netherlands)… and morphing. Embark immediately @LuvTilitHurts
*The final block of text is by Paula Nishijima & Todd Lanier Lester.
[*When the project began, I wrote a piece entitled Why Make an Open Work? where I used some borrowed ‘game storming’ graphics to show the chaos needed within a project before it comes to a point. This logic showed up again when Adham Bakry made LUV’s first design elements (see image).While I don’t imagine that an art exhibition is the only ‘point’ of LUV’s two-year period of understanding, it does seem very compelling as we near the end of its initial two-year period. Codename: Exquisite Corpse! xo Todd]
Subject: Curatorial concept structure
1. cover: sexy image with title/names 2. LUV concept description with names (who does who) 3. curatorial concept as extension/natural consequence of LUV with list of artists treated as a pool to expand or choose from 4. exhibition concept: principles/overall technicalities 5. 2-3 pages of my sketches of the exhibition, can contain one page with references from my previously designed exhibitions 6. catalogue/Free mashup of most representative works 7. possibly a last page with a list of references (organizations/www), should be in the end to limit the amount of written words and content, so if someone is bored, doesnt have to read these or reads in another occasion!
Important: to include strong messages/shortlisting of important motives, eye-catching visual references, synergy motives (coming out from the status of artists, experiences of people involved, etc), telling about expandable/evolutive concept of the exhibition both in the choice of art. works/artists and in the set-up.
Game of Swarms will be thus a communication device as well as a register of the artistic research upon how dynamics of networks in nature can be used as a tool to understand new ways of relationality among humans and non-humans—based on the distribution of agency, rather than the centralisation of powers.
Collaboration is often considered a value, but not a standard behaviour in Western societies, as much of their thinking is rooted in the individualistic view of the subject—based on autonomy and self-determination. Game of Swarms is an artistic investigation and communication device that offers an alternative to that exceptional framework of the human, emphasising the collaborative behaviour of systems in nature.
GOS explores how living organisms work together without central control to adapt to changing conditions. Drawing on theories about self-organisation and swarm intelligence, the project materialises into a cooperative game, whose objective is to co-create its rules, the algorithms that will lead to the construction of a resilient network—and new methodologies to work together.
Through the collaboration with a team of ethologists, the project focuses on the collective behaviour of ants, bees and a slime mould, Physarum Polycephalum, which is a rhizomatic-form protist without brain but with great capacity of learning and complex problem-solving. These organisms exhibit efficient systems that survive through cooperation rather than competition, questioning the old saw of ‘survival of the fittest’.
The research then unfolds in three parts: a 3D audiovisual piece that elaborates on the aesthetics of life-forms based on connections, rather than individuals; performative work: a series of workshops with collaborators to reflect on the biological network model of swarms and play with a prototype of the game to create and experiment the rules; and the online version of the game (under construction) that will be incorporated into the website of Mutant Institute of Environmental Narratives.
Game of Swarms contributes to the discussion about how the world is tackling global problems, such as the environmental crisis, and how the actors involved will have agency and response-ability to adapt together to these transformations.
Could Be The Ballroom was always our Nuclear option A rock scrabble bunker become a threshing floor How we survived our Coldest War
A Mother a Father an entire house full of babies tucked into mangers woven out of street corner filament limber enough to parent those of us:
born with and with out parents with and without islands
begat inside flags with and without stripes while reading for A-level exams
stretched astride Empires and Queens too Black to be British too gay to be queer—
too poor for the crowns we deserve
Boys and girls born beyond signage onto intersections above and below 42nd street where hormones traffic themselves,
Run all the rules. Busts all the lights cum shot out of blackness too Pentecostal for its own beneficence
Could Be the Ballroom Scene laid its own bedrock atop an inference. As if by subterfuge. As if by stagecraft. As if by premonition:
The way we live The way we die The way we transition
In and out of space In and out of time In and out of academies & boarding schools With and without degrees.
In and out of dimension The lives we all span is a performance
1986: What a performance it was! In the year of our Lord June 30, 1986 adjudicating case: 478 U.S. 186 otherwise known as Bowers v. Hardwick the Supreme Court upheld Georgia’s Sodomy laws in a 5-4 decision.
This year 1986 according to dissenting Justice Blackmun—enjoined by William Brennan Jr., Thurgood Marshall and John Paul Stevens—our nation’s highest court became “obsessively focused on homosexual activity”
So happens this same year 1986 a midsummer night’s dream is bequeathed to Reverend Charles Angel; a new faith begins its practice inside the living rooms of Black Gay men fagged playing Russian roulette with their secrets the waters break. Gay Men of African Descent is born
June 14, 1986 Daniel Garret freebases on a James Baldwin line: “Our history is each other” and a group of Black Gay Men exhale enough pride inside a writer’s workshop to inscribe for themselves a new nation:
I cared not how rich he was How Caribbean he was How Ivy League his poison oak How much southern fruit pickled his veins
When My Brother Fell
I cared not how many Prospect Park trees bear witness to his lovemaking. I paid no attention to which butch-queen-voguing-fem he was fucking in between bushes
Or to how big how thick how heavy the thorns
he let ride his back into Heaven
When My Brother Fell I picked up his weapons and never questioned The category he walked how much make-up he had on or which label she wore behind closed doors
I never questioned If his momma knew If his daddy cared
I kept walking
Essex said, “there was no one lonelier than you Joseph” 30 years later, we not gon’ do it that way this time The Ballroom collapses whole classes into nations
Every call gets a response Every name every category every non-binary is an intention
A Universal law makes its own rules Divines its own boundaries causing legends to be born
While Paris Burns Assoto’s Saints and Willie’s Ninjas stand guard
a whole river of boys born without bones boys born without spoons let alone silver
bright boys born on islands in between boroughs that rupture beneath their salt water promise
Somehow the Ballroom always knew why Boys and Girls born too-fluid-for-homes
Essex said, “If we must die on the front line don’t let loneliness Kill us”
If There’s a Cure For This I Don’t Want It
1986 1986 1986 is a house song at morning mass a break beat, a beat box, a carol, a love song, a dirge a Brooklyn Children’s Museum born again inside a Donald Woods’ forest
1986 is a GMAD, an NMAC, an ADODI a god-accented ebonic surviving for Joseph, for Essex, for Donald, for Willie, for Assoto Saint, for Craig Harris
For all Us born Survivors of the Coldest War With and without parents.
Born too gay, too queer for the crowns we deserve.
*Images are from ‘Bobó for Yemanjá’, a February 9th event celebrating Love Positive Women 2020 in NYC at which Brad performed 1986 and other poems.
 In Atlanta, Georgia, August 1982 Michael Hardwick was issued a citation for drinking in public. Hardwick missed his court date and an arrest warrant was issued. However, before receiving the warrant, Hardwick paid the $50 fine. Nevertheless, two weeks later, police arrived at Harwick’s home, were admitted by roommate, and found Hardwick in his bedroom having sex with another man. The police arrested Hardwick and his companion for sodomy, a felony under Georgia law. Hardwick challenged the statute’s constitutionality in Federal District Court with the support of the ACLU. The case challenging the constitutionality of Georgia’s sodomy laws reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986. The Court issued a divided opinion holding that there was no constitutional protection for acts of sodomy, and that states could outlaw those practices. The case drew attention to sodomy laws across the country and in the years that followed several state legislatures repealed such laws. Finally, in 2003, in Lawrence v. Texas the Supreme Court overturned its ruling in the Bowers v. Hardwick case and invalidated the 13 remaining state sodomy laws insofar as they applied to private consensual conduct among adults.
 Charles Angel (1952-1986), a Pentecostal minister, community organizer, social advocate, and activist, who helped found the organization, Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD).
 Gay Men of African Descent (GMAD) was founded in 1986 with the mission of advancing the welfare of black gay men through education, social support, political advocacy, and health and wellness promotion. (For more information see the NYPL Archives and Manuscripts)
 Daniel Garret was a member of the Blackheart Collective, founded in 1980 by the Harlem-born Isaac Jackson. Blackheart members, all New York City-based black gay artists, produced a literary journal. The publication sought to queer dominant black intellectual traditions such as Afrocentrism and extend the gay liberation movement’s concern with prisoner rights and prison reform to a broader race- and class-based critique of carceral state power. The Blackheart collective disbanded in 1985.
 Other Countries was a writer’s workshop formed to develop, disseminate, and preserve the diverse cultural expressions of black gay men. The group produced two journals in the early years of the AIDS crisis, Other Countries: Black Gay Voices (1988) and the book-length Sojourner: Black Gay Voices in the Age of AIDS (1993).
 Joseph Beam was born December 30, 1954, in Philadelphia. He studied journalism at Franklin College in Indiana where he was an active member of the Black Student Union. Back in Philadelphia in the early 1980s, Beam got a job at Giovanni’s Room, a GLBT bookstore and began writing news articles, personal essays, poetry, and short stories that reflected the life experiences of black Gay men. In 1984, the Lesbian and Gay Press Association honored him with an award for outstanding achievement by a minority journalist. Disappointed at the lack of published gay black male voices, he edited the pioneering anthology, In the Life (1986). Beam helped resurrect the flagging National Coalition of Black Lesbians and Gays—originally founded in 1978—joining the executive committee and editing the organization’s journal, Black/Out. He died of complications related to AIDS in December 1988, just three days shy of his 34th birthday. After his death, Beam’s mother and his friend Essex Hemphill completed a second anthology of black Gay men’s writing, Brother to Brother (1991), which Beam was working on when he died (extract from Liz Highleyman’s article, “Who was Joseph Beam?” for Seattle News.)
 The refrain from Diana Ross’s 1976 hit song, “Love Hangover,” written by Pamela Sawyer and Marilyn McLeod. The song is one of the anthems of the House and Ballroom community.
 In 1986, the American Public Health Association (APHA) had its first AIDS workshop, and neglected to invite any HIV/AIDS or medical leaders of color to the event. Craig Harris crashed the meeting, taking the stage and the microphone from Dr. Merv Silverman, the San Francisco Health Commissioner. This was the genesis of a national movement and the founding moment of the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) that quickly became a voice for communities of color, spreading awareness of the disproportionate impact that HIV/AIDS had on their communities (see https://gay-sd.com/the-national-minority-aids-council-they-will-be-heard/).
 Leaders of prominent minority AIDS organization nationwide – including Paul Kawata, Gil Gerald, Calu Lester, Don Edwards, Timm Offutt, Norm Nickens, Craig Harris, Carl Bean, Suki Ports, Marie St.Cyr and Sandra McDonald – started the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) in response to the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) failure to invite anyone of color to participate on the panel at its first ever AIDS workshop in 1986. NMAC members met with U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop when he was writing his historic report on the AIDS. Originally scheduled for just 15 minutes the meeting lasted nearly two and half hours. More than three decades later, HIV still disproportionately impacts communities of color and NMAC continues to provide public policy education programs, conferences, treatment and research programs initiatives, trainings, and electronic and printed resource materials (see http://www.nmac.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/History.pdf).
 Audre Lorde (1934-1992) dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. Lorde was born in New York City to West Indian immigrant parents. She earned her BA from Hunter College and Master in Library Sciences from Columbia University. She was a librarian in the New York public schools throughout the 1960s. She had two children with her husband, Edward Rollins, a white, gay man, before they divorced in 1970. In 1972, Lorde met her long-time partner, Frances Clayton and began teaching as poet-in-residence at Tougaloo College. Lorde articulated early on the intersections of race, class, and gender in canonical essays such as “The Master’s Tools Will Not Dismantle the Master’s House.” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (1984) collected Lorde’s nonfiction prose and has become a canonical text in Black studies, women’s studies, and queer theory. In the late 1980s Lorde and fellow writer Barbara Smith founded Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press, which was dedicated to furthering the writings of black feminists.
 ADODI was born in 1986 in Philadelphia as a movement of same gender loving men of African descent. “Adodi” is the plural of “Ado,” a Yoruba word that describes a man who “loves” another man. The Adodi of the tribe are thought to embody both male and female ways of being and were revered as shamans, sages. and leaders. Adodi currently has chapters in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York and Washington, DC. (see: http://www.adodi.org/)
Essex Hemphill (1967-1995) was a writer who addressed race, identity, sexuality, HIV/AIDS, and the family in his work. His first full-length poetry collection, Ceremonies: Prose and Poetry (1992), won the National Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual New Author Award. He edited the anthology Brother to Brother: New Writing by Black Gay Men (1991). His work is featured in the documentaries Tongues Untied (1989), Black Is … Black Ain’t (1994), and Looking for Langston (1989). Hemphill died of complications from AIDS in 1995.
The Vale of Cashmere is a secluded patch of wilderness in Prospect Park that’s been the unofficial locus of gay cruising in Brooklyn since the 1970s. In his short story, “Summer Chills” in Brother to Brother: New Writings by Black Gay Men, Rory Buchanan writes: “When I got there, I found the park filled with men in the same horny, hungry state of mind I was in … I can’t remember ever seeing so many gorgeous black men in any one place.”
Assotto Saint (1957-1994) was a Haitian-born, pioneering poet, author, performance artist, musician, editor, human rights and AIDS activist, theatrical founder, and dancer. Saint was among the first Black activists to disclose his HIV positive status, and one of the first poets to include the AIDS crisis in his work. After graduating from Jamaica High School in New York City, he enrolled as a pre-med student at Queens College. In 1980, Saint fell in love with Jaan Urban Holmgren, a Swedish-born composer with whom he began collaborating on a number of theatrical and musical projects. Their relationship would last 14 years. They were both diagnosed as HIV positive in 1987. The death of his partner Jaan Urban Holmgren in 1993 profoundly affected Saint. In his poem, “Wishing for Wings,” he concludes that no words can convey his despair over Holmgren’s death. Saint died of AIDS-related complications on June 29, 1994. He had requested that, in protest of the indifference of American society to those dying of AIDS, that the American flag be burned at his funeral and its ashes scattered on his grave. Holmgren and Saint are buried side-by-side at the Cemetery of the Evergreens in Brooklyn.
Willi Ninja (1961-2006) was a dancer, performance artist, and choreographer who was featured in “Paris is Burning.” He was a self-taught dancer who was perfecting his vogueing style by his twenties. As mother of the House of Ninja, he became a New York celebrity, and give modelling stars like Naomi Campbell pointers early in their careers. He also inspired Madonna and her 1990 hit song and music video, “Vogue.” In 2004, Willi Ninja opened a modelling agency, EON (Elements of Ninja), but continued to dance, appearing on the television series “America’s Next Top Model” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and dropping in at local clubs. Willie Ninja died of AIDS-related heart failure in New York City on September 2, 2006, at the age of 45.
 Donald Woods (1958-1992) was a poet, singer, and creative worker based in Brooklyn. He earned a bachelor’s degree at The New School and did postgraduate study in arts administration. His work as a writer began with his involvement in the Blackheart Collective. He studied with Audre Lorde and participated in Other Countries, a black gay men’s writing workshop. Woods was one of several authors of “Tongues Untied,” Marlon T. Riggs’s film about black gay men. He also appeared in Riggs’s film, “No Regrets.” (see: https://www.nytimes.com/1992/06/29/obituaries/donald-w-woods-34-aids-film-executive.html)
This article was originally published in ArtsEverywhere on Feb 27th, 2020.
[*In February and back before Covid19 suspended travel (and life as we knew it) a group of LUV peeps met in NYC to work on the ‘next-LUV’ or an afterlife for Luv ’til it Hurts, a project that I originally charted for only two years. Those two years are almost up. We received some instruction/planning questions from teammate Jakub Szczęsny at that time, and again now as a new group plan takes shape. xo Todd]
1. which artists in the beginning? 2. how many of their works in the beginning? 3. what space? How does it look? Need plans/ etc 4. two motives to put together: social level of the reaction to the “plague” (magical thinking, morality, religiousness, alienation, etc) with individual level (spiritualization, development of everyday survival strategies, self-distancing, development of individual linguistics, etc) 5. I’m thinking about a set of cases that can be easily configured in various positions, cases that include artworks with illumination included, so they are very independent from spatial context of galleries and in fact invade the interiors like strange, dominating furniture. This way most objects: sculptures, photographs, videos, drawings, etc can be integrated into cases that are both aesthetic objects and transportation devices. The rest is happening on the walls, especially words : shorter and longer texts.
Why cases/boxes? 1.They refer to contained secrets, something interiorized 2. when open, cases suggest that the viewer [has permission] to look inside 3. they serve as mere transportation devices 4. they become modules of para-architectural strength and suggest overtaking the space 5. we will always have a good argument when guardians of morality start criticizing the institution because we will show a penis or something: after lengthy negotiations with confused directors we will close just one box, not the entire exhibition, or we can make a movable cover or curtain (as Italians and Arabs do when exhibiting “confusing” Greek and Roman mosaics, I love this reference!) behind which “dirty” things will hide, permitting only adult viewers, I’m already shivering here! 6. we will need cases anyway to transport things!
Everything that happens on the walls could have both the elegance of good typography and something dodgy/punk/dirty in the way graphics, typography and choice of 2d images is done, it could also be somehow playful and coquettish.
[*Back at the end of 2019, a group of eight called SOMOS (or ‘SOMOS Mais’) formed in São Paulo to coordinate activities for December 1, International AIDS Day. The idea at first was that a collective might form to continue working together on our HIV-related artworks after the big holiday; however, the group didn’t stay together. A sweet event, Sarau Transante transpired on November 30th and members walked together the following day on São Paulo’s AIDS Walk. At the time I was unsure if anything had been ‘gained’ by all the effort that went into the group formation and its lone event; I reflected on our initiative in Using one ‘project’ to see another. Today, though, I can see some (new) things that I personally learned from the process. And, that’s nice! xo Todd]